It’s hard to believe, but it’s that time of year again when we pull out our green ties and shirts and all become a little Irish. I believe there are not many, if any, Irish wines available to pair with your Irish fare and we generally revert to serving the old standby, Guiness Stout or Irish Pale Ale, with our corned beef and cabbage.

So this year I rose to the challenge and will be preparing my Irish feast and serving it with some carefully chosen wines. Having just finished our class on food and wine pairing at the Arts Center in Smithfield, I decided to design a dinner for my friends and try to pair the Irish dishes with some traditional table wines.

I was taken with the Irish food selections in the April edition of the magazine, Cuisine, and would like to suggest  some suitable food and wine pairings for this special dinner. I will also be preparing two styles of Irish soda bread to accompany the meal.

The first course for the evening will follow the recipe for Fish and Chips cakes in this edition of Cuisine. It involves using cod fillets that are poached in Guinness dark beer until flakey. The cod is then pulsed in a food processor with salt and vinegar potato chips, a little scallions, some parsley, a touch of garlic, one egg and a spot of Old Bay seasoning. Add a little poaching liquid to make a soft mixture which is then shaped into several triangles and carefully fried in vegetable oil.

Looking at the ingredients in this exciting dish I would suggest serving it with a chilled, unoaked chardonnay. The freshness and buttery character of this style of wine should marry well with the salty chips and the Old Bay seasoning and scallions. A heavily oaked chardonnay would perhaps overpower this unique dish. One might also consider serving a Spainish albarino or Italian pinot grigio, both of which would compliment the dish with their crisp, clean and fruity flavors.

The second course will be a Spring Irish stew with roasted cabbage wedges served on the side.  This dish sounds delicious and is somewhat different in that it uses ground lamb together with sliced carrots, pearl onions, and potatoes with hints of garlic and fresh rosemary.

The lamb is sauted  and the carrots, onions and potatoes are then cooked in the lamb drippings with a little tomato paste. The pot is then deglazed with a cup of Guinness and topped off with a little Worchester sauce and  a dollop of Dijon mustard.  The final touch includes a little lemon juice and lemon zest. The cabbage wedges are drizzled with oil and then roasted in the oven until slightly browned and served with the stew.

This is a very complex dish but the ingredients suggest a New Zealand sauvignon blanc. The herbal character and lovely acidity of this style of wine should marry well with the lemon and  rosemary and compliment the acidity of the tomatos. If the idea of serving a white wine with lamb bothers you then I would suggest you consider trying a light Rioja red wine or perhaps a Virginia cabernet franc as an alternative.

For the entrée or third course I will be serving a traditional braised corned beef which will be cooked in a Dutch oven together with some onion, apple juice, a little diced carrot, some smashed garlic, a touch of ginger and some whole juniper berries together with and some dried bay leaves. I usually serve my corned beef with a sour cream-horseradish sauce to liven things up, but horseradish can really mess up most wines. I would suggest instead that you perhaps try a mixture of olive oil, minced shallots and a little apple jelly together with a touch of whole-grain mustard blended into sour cream. This should perk up the corned beef and be more agreeable with the wine selections.

With this beef dish I would recommend a Beaujolais Village or one of the Beaujolais cru wines like a Fleurie that will not overpower the dish and offer you the soft, subtle flavors that should pair well with this texture and weight of the meat. If you think you need something that has a bolder, hearty character, try a soft Washington State merlot or a  zinfandel. If you feel a need for something rather different, try pairing this dish with a California petite sirah. 

For dessert I think I will opt for some decedant chocolate mousse with a little Baileys Irish Cream thrown in for good luck. Nothing green however!            

I hope you have happy, exciting and safe Saint Patrick’s Day and enjoy whatever you serve that night, with or without wine!

Roy Williams is professor emeritus in Old Dominion University's chemistry department. Write to him at collies2@verizon.net.